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Turkey supports Egypt’s rise as regional power – premier’s aide 26 novembre 2012

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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BBC Monitoring European (UK) November 26, 2012                                Türkçe

Text of report by Turkish newspaper Star website on 25 November

Commentary by Ibrahim Kalin, Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan: « Turkey, Egypt, and the New Middle East ».

Turkey sees Egypt not as a rival but as a strategic partner. For Egypt to grow stronger will not narrow Turkey’s area of action in the region, but on the contrary will lighten its load, and will contribute to the implementation of a shared regional vision.

The visit that Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan made to Egypt on 17-18 November 2012 opened a new page in the modern history of Turkey and Egypt. Erdogan, who travelled to Egypt with 10 ministers, 60 bureaucrats, journalists, and over 200 businessmen, expressed at the highest level, with the 27 agreements signed, the 2bn-dollar finance and credit agreement, and the messages that he conveyed to the Egyptian and Arab publics from Cairo University, the special importance that Turkey will ascribe to Egypt in the new period. For the relations between Turkey and Egypt, which are gradually acting with a shared strategic vision, to gain in strength and depth, has the potential to be a turning point in the modern history of the Middle East. A strong Egypt is in harmony with Turkey’s vision for regional and global peace and stability.

Realpolitik and Idealpolitik

When Prime Minister Erdogan, in early 2011, paid heed to the voice of « freedom and honour » in Tahrir Square and said to former Egyptian President [Hosni] Mubarak that « it is finally time to go, » a good many people in Turkey and in the West thought that the Prime Minister had acted prematurely, had taken on too much risk, and even had gambled by this. Erdogan, who following Mubarak’s overthrow visited Egypt in September of 2011, was received by thousands of Egyptians as a national hero and a global leader. The situation was no different in November of 2012. When Erdogan repeated the Egyptian revolution’s slogan of « hold your head high; you are Egyptian! » in front of 5,000 people and dozens of cameras at Cairo University, not only Cairo, but also Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and indeed the entire world heard it.

« Realist analysts » might see this flood of emotions as « catharsis » and take it lightly. But history gains momentum, becomes meaningful, and opens to new horizons just at the point where calculation and sensitivity, reason and emotion, realism and human ideals, and Realpolitik and Idealpolitik come together. We have been experiencing this « long moment » (longue duree) in the Middle East for a number of years now. Because the revolutions are continuing. Now, the popular uprisings that sent the dictators into the dustbin of history need to be supported and buttressed with political, economic, and social revolutions.

Egypt is located at the most crucial point of this process. For Egypt to become a regional power once again, and to exert its weight in Middle Eastern politics, is an element that will fundamentally reshape the political architecture of the Middle East. As was stated in the course of his contacts in Egypt, Turkey unhesitatingly supports the rise of Egypt.

Because Turkey sees Egypt not as a rival, but rather as a strategic partner. The political and economic rise of Egypt is fully in harmony with Turkey’s regional diplomacy and its vision of sustainable development, economic integration, and social and cultural convergence. For Egypt to grow stronger will not, despite what has been claimed, narrow Turkey’s area of action in the region, but on the contrary will lighten Turkey’s load, and will provide an essential contribution to the implementation of a shared regional vision.

The First Test of the New Egypt

We saw a concrete and current example of this in the process of bringing about a cease-fire in Gaza last week. The intense diplomatic traffic that began on 16 November and was conducted, under the leadership of Egypt, among the United States, Israel, Turkey, Qatar, HAMAS [Islamic Resistance Movement], and the Arab League, produced fruit, and a cease-fire was declared on 21 November 2012. A Turkish delegation headed by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu set up camp in Cairo for five days, and met with the various parties on a moment-by-moment basis.

While these negotiations were underway, no one got into petty calculations along the lines of « who will get the credit for this? » With people dying in Gaza, the only question in people’s minds was the question of how we were going to end Israel’s illegitimate and inhuman attacks. In the final analysis, the cease-fire that Israel violated was a cease-fire that Egypt had brought about earlier, and thus there could have been nothing more natural than for Egypt to play a leading role in this process.

The Old Order and the New Actors

For a legitimate government, based on the will of the people, to come to power in Egypt makes plain in a striking way the dimensions of the process of change in the Middle East, along with its opportunities and its challenges. To expect the new actors, without changing in a fundamental way the main backbone of the old order, to create miracles in a short time would be naive and unfair. The new Egyptian administration is facing great political, economic, and social problems. Merely resolving Cairo’s traffic, sanitation, and security problems requires an intense and systematic effort. Succeeding in this is of importance in order to keep the spirit of Tahrir Square alive. Naturally, these are not problems that cannot be overcome. Turkey will continue to be at Egypt’s side in resolving both micro and macro problems.

The real framework that imparts meaning and depth to the bilateral relationship is the common strategic vision shared by the two countries.

The main elements of this vision are comprised of the following main headings: A political order based on popular legitimacy; democratization; transparency; pluralism; human rights; freedom of expression, religion, and conscience; a state based on laws; justice and equality; economic development; just distribution; and effective foreign policy. The goal of the Tahrir Revolution was not just to get rid of Mubarak, but to put these principles into implementation. In this sense, the Egyptian revolution is still continuing.

To these principles, which form the basis of the political and economic order, must be added the memory of a common history and geography, and of a common conception of civilization. The common historical and cultural values possessed by the Turkish and Egyptian nations and the peoples of the region are of strategic importance from the standpoint of bringing about regional peace, prosperity, and stability. Because it is impossible for a spiritless socio-political order to be lasting over the long term, or to turn into a creative energy.

Prime Minister Erdogan’s Egypt visit brought this shared memory and conception of culture onto the agenda once again. From the Egyptian statesmen who speak proudly of their Turkish family connections to shopkeepers, from the memoirs of Mehmet Akif in the Fishawy Cafe to Najib Mahfouz, from the Ottoman works that adorn all parts of Cairo to Al-Azhar University and the famous Egyptian Koran reciters, the « reciprocal shared feelings » that confront us in every area make plain the depth of the ties that Turkey and Egypt have with one another. To stimulate this shared memory, which has become dulled for various reasons, would provide important contributions to the development and the growth of both countries, and of the region.

Europeanism and the New Middle East

Contrary to some allegations, this common history and concept of civilization is not some sort of « Third Worldism. » This does not mean forming a new bloc in opposition to the West, to Asia, or to Africa. The criticism of Euro-centrism that I have voiced on numerous occasions is not to replace it with a Turko-centrism, Islamo-centrism, or Middle-East-centrism. In other words, to criticize Euro-centrism and to think of alternative models is not to nourish hostility towards the West. On the contrary, the Euro-centric conception of history, geography, culture, art, aesthetics, and global politics is one of the fundamental obstacles to the normalization of the Western societies’ relations with the other nations of the world. It is this demand for justice and equality, in short normalization, that underlies the problems that Turkey has encountered in its EU accession process and the criticisms that it has raised on these. Despite all of these things, Turkey is not giving up its goal of full membership in the EU. Because it knows that signing 27 agreements with Egypt does not contradict the Copenhagen Criteria.

Those who see criticism of Euro-centrism as a crude anti-Westernism have difficulty in understanding the criticisms of Euro-centrism that come out of the West itself, and in general choose to ignore them. They do not even follow properly the Europe that they imitate. But I think that the main reason is their fear that the exclusive and imaginary model of Europe and the West in their minds will evaporate and disappear. In an age of pluralistic modernity and multi-dimensional globalization, to interpret and judge the developments in the world and the Middle East from a Euro-centristic angle means, to put it mildly, to ignore the flow of history. As for those who are unable to get over the limitations of Euro-centrism, and those who think this a crude anti-Westernism, I do not know to what degree they have read and understood Heidegger’s criticism of Western philosophy, or Derrida and Habermas’s interpretations of Europe and America, or the criticisms of modern history, culture, and politics of Foucault, Chomsky, Giddens, Buruma, Falk, Dallmayr, Walt, or dozens of Western thinkers and academics. But it is certainly true that for our intellectuals to look at world history from different angles would not only be intellectually enriching, but would at the same time would enable them to understand correctly the dynamics of the world and the Middle East of the 21st Century.

Turkey, Egypt, and the Regional Order

For Turkey and Egypt to act with a common strategic conception provides important opportunities for the solution of regional and global problems. But to see this, with a superficial approach, as a Turkish-Egyptian axis and to seek to generate new antagonisms would be wrong. Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Gulf and North African countries can, with a shared vision and will, offer very important contributions to regional cooperation, stability, and development. Iran, which has fallen at odds with the countries of the region due to the Syria issue, needs to be a part of a constructive and inclusive regional order. Similarly, the wealth of natural resources of the Gulf countries can play an important role in the development of the region. And the democratic Syria that will be built following [Syrian President Bashar] Al-Asad will be an important actor in this regional order.

The common vision that Turkey and Egypt possess is a historic opportunity for the Islamic world in overcoming Sunni-Shi’i tension, which has reached dangerous levels in the context of Iraq and Syria. Similarly, guaranteeing the fundamental rights and freedoms of the non-Muslim communities living in the Middle East and the Islamic countries is also of vital importance.

The political and cultural heritage that Turkey and Egypt possess, their geo-strategic position, and their young populations and possibilities for broad cooperationare a historic opportunity for the establishment of an order of lasting and permanent peace and stability in the new Middle East. The fact that the political leaderships and the peoples of both countries have gone into action in order to exploit this opportunity is an encouraging situation from the standpoint of regional and world peace.

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